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Abstracts

Fanny Hensel as Cultural Activist: A Closer Look at the Choleramusik

Joanna Reeder (University of Houston)

While the rediscovery of Fanny Hensel has resulted in recognition of her accomplishments as a composer of chamber music, her compositions that fall outside of this sphere remain understudied. In 1831, Hensel wrote three large-scale works for soloists, chorus, and full orchestra. The last of these works, the Choleramusik, Hensel wrote in response to the 1826 Cholera epidemic that had devastated Europe and had sparked social, cultural, and political upheaval. Misidentified as an “Oratorio on Pictures from the Bible” until as late as 1994, the Choleramusik has undergone very little study and we have yet to explore its implications on our current understanding of Hensel as a composer. Upon deeper investigation, the Choleramusik testifies both to Hensel’s ability to compose works in large-scale genres and her role as a cultural activist.

Through an exploration of her self-assembled libretto, her musical setting of the text, and the venue she arranged for the performance, this paper demonstrates that Hensel wished to construct a work that called for a peaceful, pious response to the Cholera calamity, something that stood in contrast to the rioting and violence taking place around Europe. Moreover, Hensel fed the ever-growing spirit of German Nationalism, by setting the work in the nineteenth-century German oratorio tradition. Consequently, the Choleramusik portrays a side of Fanny Hensel otherwise missed completely: a composer emotionally invested in her city, and one who sought to support and unify her community during a time of discord, chaos, and confusion. The Choleramusik, therefore, exposes Hensel as not just a talented and active composer, but as a leader in her community as well.

 

 

A Musico-Poetic Analysis of La Lune Blanche by Gabriel Fauré

Joe Noëlliste (Baylor University)

Gabriel Fauré’s setting of Paul Verlaine’s La Lune Blanche Luit dans les Bois (1894), the third mélodie of the song cycle, La Bonne Chanson (Op. 61), distinguishes itself from the innumerable host of art songs that portray the enchantment of moonlight and its nocturnal landscape. Francis Poulenc’s longstanding collaborator and esteemed mélodie specialist Pierre Bernac affirmed the peculiar effectiveness of this setting by stating that “rarely has [moonlight] inspired a more beautiful poem or a more perfect musical setting.” Despite this ringing endorsement, French musicologist and philosopher, Vladimir Jankélévitch, criticized La Bonne Chanson as an aesthetical inconsistency, a “Dionysian” setback on Faure’s artistic journey towards Gaelic austerity. Additionally, Fauré’s longtime friend and colleague, Camille Saint-Saëns, was so perplexed by the unrestrained chromaticism sustained throughout the song cycle that he believed that Fauré had indeed gone mad.

Even if we assume that the expressive mode and harmonic content of La Bonne Chanson is inconsistent with the general thrust of Fauré’s output, La Lune Blanche would still showcase Fauré’s penchant for expressing the most nuanced poetic motifs through precise, yet sensitive musical means. The profound wedding of poem and music not only accounts for the effective evocation of the nocturnal trope in this particular mélodie, but it also undergirds Fauré’s unequivocal membership among the most venerated mélodie composers. This paper reveals Fauré’s unique coupling of music and text by demonstrating how the dialogue between the lovers, which is set apart in an interior poem within La Lune Blanche,is highlighted by the judicious use of vocal tessitura, Lewin’s SLIDE transformation, the self-quotation of Lydia, Opus 4. No. 2, and its accompanying Lydian mode. In addition, the melodic interaction between singer and pianist is shown to dramatize the pervasive theme of descentfeatured in all three strophes of the poem: the moonlight that shines downon the woods in strophe 1, the willow that casts its silhouette on the pond belowin strophe 2 and the vast and tender peace that descendsfrom the sky in strophe 3.

Implications of the analysis are numerous: (1) it serves as an interpretive model for Fauré’s most sophisticated mélodie; (2) it provides insights into the performance of the song, in particular those pertaining to the collaboration between singer and pianist; and (3) it contributes salient text-music relations for a body of art song that has not yet garnered the level of analytical attention devoted to German lieder.

 

 

An Enactive Approach to the Perception of Musical Expression in Form Theory Analysis

Bree Guerra (University of Texas at Austin)

Drawing on Caplin’s theory of formal function in Classical music and Hepokoski and Darcy’s Sonata Theory, this paper will investigate how form theory analysis could relate to embodied accounts of music perception. I suggest that the “functions” (Caplin) or “action zones” (H&D) underlying their analyses create a fusion of musical features and predictions that have the ability to simultaneously engage with embodiment- and expectation-based approaches to musical expression. Moreover, since these form theories delineate processes towards musical goals, assess the music’s current state with respect to those goals, and evaluate the music’s anticipated likelihood of reaching different outcomes, form theory analysis suggests a musical parallel to the integration of perception and action found in recent enactive and ecological views of perception in cognitive science.

Following Krueger’s (2009, 2014) model of enactive musical experience, affordance, and agency, I first argue that a form theory’s ability to speak to music perception depends on the degree to which its analytically-suggested paths present the listener with affordances for musically motivated action, whether virtual or actual. I then bring an embodied perspective to the expressive perceptions motivated via form-function and Sonata Theory through two works with different interpretations under both theories: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A, Op. 2/2, i (Caplin’s subordinate theme with an internal half cadence-like gesture versus H&D’s tri-modular block), and Mozart’s Quintet in G minor, K. 516, i (Caplin’s blurred boundaries between subordinate theme and transition, H&D’s two-part exposition with unusual medial caesura, or continuous exposition). The distinct expressive outcomes of both theories reveal how expectations across extended time spans can influence perceived affective content of the musical surface, and, in turn, how expectations could manifest through aspects of embodied listening. Furthermore, form theories’ staging and evaluation of musical events lends insight into music’s ability to evoke prospective and retrospective emotions like hope and relief. These types of emotions require an awareness of future or past actions on the present, thus moving beyond typical embodiment arguments concerning direct sonic analogues of body movement or sensation to integrate more traditionally “cognitive” effects of expectation on expression.

 

 

Rudolph Reti and Alfred North Whitehead: Parallels in Process

Eric Elder (Brandeis University)

The place of Rudolph Reti’s 1951 book, The Thematic Process in Music, has been greatly understated in considerations of the history and development of current streams of musical thought. While frequently included in such outlines, the work’s long reception history, stretching from Vincent Persichetti (1951) and Alvin Bauman (1952) to Kofi Agawu (1987) and beyond, is marked by a consistently high degree of subjectivity. Indeed, sixty-five years after its initial publication, The Thematic Process in Music has yet to be treated in a manner suggesting any substantial depth or meaningful affinity with trends—past or present—in musico-theoretical understanding. Along the way, Rudolph Reti has become a ready straw man, a veritable “foot-notorious” figure among scholars of music. But Reti, who acknowledged the novelty and crudeness of his study, provided well-placed cues for locating the work in its own intellectual context, thereby supplying an aid for grasping its fuller implications.

The present investigation illuminates these cues, namely, Reti’s prominent references to the English mathematician and father of process philosophy, Alfred North Whitehead. By directly comparing Reti’s words and analytical observations to the fundamental concepts and principles of Whitehead’s cosmological constructs, features of The Thematic Process in Music routinely dismissed as arbitrary gain new significance. Further, reinstating “process” in The Thematic Process in Music by treating it as purposeful within the context of Whitehead’s ontology of becoming points to Reti’s unrecognized role as a pioneer in developing cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding and relating to music. It also finds Reti’s theory in surprisingly sympathetic dialogue with important contributions to the continuing discourse on musical form as process, including Caplin’s concept of retrospective reinterpretation (1998), Hepokoski and Darcy’s sixteen propositions underlying Sonata Theory (2006), and Schmalfeldt’s notions of “becoming” and “the Beethoven-Hegelian tradition” (2011).

 

 

Not Only the Finale: Aesthetics of the Sublime in Mozart’s Symphony No. 41

Andrew Vagts (University of North Texas)

Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, the “Jupiter,” is described in recent scholarship as a musical analog to the 18th century sublime aesthetic. A. Peter Brown, Ian Woodfield, and Elaine Sisman project much of their discussions of the sublime onto the final movement particularly, noting its contrapuntal complexity. Sisman describes the five-part invertible counterpoint of the final movement’s coda in terms of Kant’s mathematical sublime. Sisman understands the contrapuntal, learned style of topic theory as an elevated, sublime compositional style. However, the learned style can also be taken as a contrivance which points not to the sublime, but rather to stile legato and outdated compositional techniques.

The philosophical works of Mozart’s contemporaries, Moses Mendelssohn and Johann Georg Sulzer, offer broader definitions of the sublime beyond Kant’s. Through consideration of these and other primary sources, I will explore elements of the sublime in the first three movements of Symphony No. 41 and discuss how these movements inform perceptions of the sublime in the final movement. For example, Sulzer in his Allgemeine theorie der schönen Künste(1778) characterizes the sublime as “the highest in art, and must be employed when the mind is to be attacked with powerful strokes, when admiration, awe, powerful longing, high courage, or also fear or terror are to be aroused.” Simon Sechter, writing in 1843, characterized the final movement as “light-hearted” and uses it as a study in Mozart’s compositional style, neither of which seems particularly sublime. If the sublime is to be found in Symphony No. 41, the finale may not be the ideal place to look. Consider instead measure 80 of the first movement which contains…nothing. The abrupt contrast between piano and forte may incite fear or terror. The proceeding C minor chord in measure 81 threatens to destabilize the G major tonic of the exposition and problematizes the efficacy of the second theme area to effectively return to the first theme area. This moment is not only surprising, it is an aurally salient musical gesture that aligns itself with contemporary definitions of the sublime.

 

 

From Chaos to Cosmos: A Deleuzian Reading of Turangalîla

Richard Lee (Florida State University)

I interpret Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie (1946–48) using Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia as a philosophical springboard. In Turangalîla, thematic transformation represents a Deleuzian narrative that takes the following form: a refrain emerges from chaos, creating order; that refrain engages with other refrains, becoming a cosmic form of expression; and finally, that expression is released into the cosmos. This reading crosses disciplinary borders in order to assemble a narrative that focuses on the play of the symphony’s dramatis personae.

The statue theme, previously described as ‘brutal and oppressive,’ transforms into the love theme throughout the work. Comprised of five dyads in a jagged, disjunct contour, the theme resists conventional phrase structure. When ordered, the theme occupies a chromatic pitch-class space that embellishes an added-sixth sonority [0358], a recurring signifier of love in Messiaen’s oeuvre. That chromatic space gradually transforms and expands toward the second mode of limited transposition (an octatonic collection) in marked moments of the symphony’s discourse (specifically, Mvmt’s 1, 5, and 10). By viewing Mode 2 as two added-sixth sonorities a tritone apart, a strategic fuzzy definition can be made: a theme is completely included in the fuzzy set if it contains two upper and two lower neighbors to an added-sixth, generating Mode 2. Since the statue theme inhabits a chromatic pitch-class space, many outlying nomadic notes exist when the fuzzy definition is applied, excluding it from membership in the fuzzy set. Throughout Turangalîla, that theme transforms and becomes a ‘gradient sign:’ components in the signifier change slowly, evolving the signified. Later, symphonic themes approach sentential phrase structure and gradually eliminate the nomadic pitches in pitch-class space. It is not until the final movement that the transformation of the statue theme reaches full inclusion in the fuzzy set before sounding an apotheosis of the love theme. Emerging from chaos and becoming an expression of a negative order, the baleful statue theme encroaches on other thematic refrains as it transforms, always embellishing [0358]. Through apotheosis, that expression is released into the flux of the cosmos, solidifying the nature of this particular Deleuzian refrain.

 

 

Scoring Empowerment and Moral Conflict in The Dark Knight Trilogy

Steven Rahn (University of Texas at Austin)

James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer’s music for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy contains unusually spare thematic content, departing from the heavily thematic, gothic scoring of previous Batman films.  The most salient, recurring element of the soundtrack is an ascending minor third motive, which Christian Clemmenson (2005) has criticized because, as the principal theme, it does not allow the duality of the Bruce Wayne/Batman relationship to be exploited as in previous films.  Janet Halfyard (2013) defends the composers’ approach and contends, for example, that the lack of contrast between the music used for Bruce and Batman is an entirely appropriate strategy because of the absence of a dualistic relationship between the two personas in Nolan’s films.    

In this paper, I argue that the D-F motive highlights stages in the evolution of the Batman persona through three characteristic harmonizations: prolongation of the D-minor tonic; i-VI in D minor; and the neo-Riemannian SLIDE transformation from D minor to D-flat major.  The prolongation version, the most common form, marks instances of Bruce Wayne’s personal growth early in the trilogy.  By contrast, the i-VI harmonization underlines feelings of empowerment, accompanying moments of triumph and significant transformations in the character.  The chromatically-inflected SLIDE transformation is fittingly the most complex in terms of signification, underpinning scenes that feature ethical conundrums.  Frank Lehman (2013) and Lloyd Whitesell (2010) have discussed how this harmonic maneuver can convey ambivalence in film scores.  Here, the shift to chromaticism serves as an analogue to the degradation of Batman’s moral constitution throughout the trilogy.  Furthermore, the minor third motive, as a signifier, eventually breaks free of the protagonist, reflecting Bruce Wayne’s lost, shattered state later in the trilogy.  In my analysis, I propose that the various iterations of the minor third motive and its harmonizations interact with the narrative subtext of The Dark Knight trilogy on a deeper level than critics of the film scores suggest.  On a broader level, I wish to draw more attention to marked instances of chromaticism in film scores and their potential narrative significance in cinema.

 

 

Deforming the Backbeat: Dissonant States and Musical Expression

in Meshuggah’s obZen and Koloss

Chris Lennard (University of Texas at Austin)

Swedish extreme metal band Meshuggah is known for saturating their music with dissonance, particularly in the metric realm. In many styles of Western art and popular music the kind of sensory dissonances that pervade Meshuggah’s songs are considered unstable, and often generate an expressive trajectory by signaling a departure from some stable and normative state. However, when dissonance is that normative state composers must develop novel techniques to generate instability and articulate such a trajectory. Furthermore, the detection of instability is dependent upon the musical schemas that each listener has at their disposal. To successfully identify expression in such a repertoire, listeners may be required to develop an alternate schema for stability and instability.

This paper suggests that the manipulation of metric dissonance is central to Meshuggah’s expressive style, and proposes a schema in which metric dissonance is stable, and metric consonance is unstable. Their normative metric state involves an asymmetrical (or, using Harald Krebs’ terminology, an anti-metrical) pattern in the guitars and bass drum cycling against a symmetrical (or metrical) backbeat pattern in the cymbal and snare drum. I examine a compositional technique called “backbeat deformation,” in which one of the voices that typically participates in the backbeat is removed or underarticulated. Deformed backbeats lose much of their metric identity, and the removed voice often supports the competing, asymmetrical pattern instead. Such deformation creates perceptual challenges that encourage listeners to abandon their entrainment of the backbeat and places an atypically biased emphasis on a single metric interpretation, generating a decrease of musical stability.

Referencing songs from their two most recent albums, obZen (2008) and Koloss (2012), I identify three types of backbeat deformation that are applied to half-time backbeat patterns: the removal of the cymbal, the underarticulation of the cymbal (in which the cymbal is still articulated, but in such a way that it is buried under the rest of the musical texture), and the removal of the snare drum. I also examine the expressive effect of backbeat deformation by placing successive metric states within the proposed schema for musical stability and instability.

 

 

Pathologizing the Iron Curtain: Jung, Copland, and Cold War Musical Aesthetics

Mark McCorkle (University of Western Ontario)

Cold War musicology frequently discusses the divisive effects of the post-war political separation between East and West on music. For Aaron Copland in the 1950s, an awareness that tonality was increasingly associated with Communism and serialism with democratic capitalism led him to seek to balance his musical and political identities. Jennifer DeLapp-Birkett has argued that in his first atonal work, the Quartet for Piano and Strings(1950), Copland used serialism to protect himself politically in an anti-communist American culture. However, Copland maintained his famous “open” and accessible sound by implying tonal associations in his employment of the twelve-tone method.

I view this synthesis of “opposing” musical styles as both a representation of Copland’s individual and social identities and a critique of the divisive Iron Curtain. To inform a new reading of the Piano Quartet I consult the “duality of man,” a psychological theory by Carl Jung that describes the human mind as the sum total of numerous perceptual dichotomies. Jung uses the Cold War construct of the Iron Curtain as a metaphor for a problematic split within the psyche. He discusses how the Iron Curtain’s splitting of the world puts the mind in a constant state of pathological tension and thus forms a critique of global Cold War culture. Both Copland and Jung wished for the deconstruction of the divisive ‘Iron Curtain,’ both as a psychological and political phenomenon: the Piano Quartetcan thus be understood to articulate Copland’s conception of the kind of post-Cold War utopia Jung describes.

Using the Iron Curtain as a metaphor in this Jungian sense achieves two goals. The first is that it provides a humanistic way to politicize indirectly political music. By centering our focus on individuals and prioritizing the importance of human agency we begin to avoid overgeneralizations and assumptions that are common when dealing with the dichotomous nature of Cold War research. The second result is a positive interpretation of Copland’s life that rejects commonly negative narratives of the composer’s biography and presents a more optimistic view of Copland’s experiences with politics during the Cold War.

 

 

An Apology for the Ephemeral Works: On the Intersection of Poetry, Music, and Ontology

Stefan Greenfield-Casas (University of Texas at Austin)

Ezra Pound’s modernist long poem The Cantos is known to be enormously unwieldy, due in no small part to its lack of an apparent narrative, use of multiple languages, and plethora of oftentimes obscure, arcane, and esoteric references. Of particular interest to music-poetic scholarship is the inclusion of two pages of sheet music which dominate the majority of Canto LXXV. Though this may seem to be “just” another aesthetic oddity in Pound’s Cantos, it also raises the question of the ontological status of a musical work within that of a literary work. Though literary scholar Mark Byron, in A Defining Moment in Ezra Pound’s Cantos: Musical Scores and Literary Texts, has gone so far as to suggest that ontology itself is unsuitable “as a descriptive tool for aesthetics” (Byron 2002), I suggest otherwise and maintain that the sheet music retains its ontological status as one mode of existence of the musical work. 

The sheet music in question is the violin part to Gerhard Münch’s arrangement of Clément Janequin’s Le Chant des Oiseaux. Though identifying sheet music as the musical work has been largely argued against, this then begs the question as to what exactly is included in this particular canto. The stances on musical ontology taken by Roman Ingarden, Jerrold Levinson, and Lydia Goehr would all deny this sheet music as a musical work. Even Nelson Goodman and his theory’s preoccupation with sheet music would take issue with this particular example as it is “only” the violin part of a twice removed arrangement divorced from the original score. To address these inconsistencies and defend the status of this sheet music as a musical work, I will draw upon the aforementioned ontological theories, as well as engage with Manuel DeLanda’s writings on assemblage theory and Sidney’s An Apology for Poetry, to argue against Mark Byron’s unfortunate conclusion. I will use Le Chant des Oiseaux and Canto LXXV as my case study to address the ontological status of the sheet music in varying capacities: in isolation, in dialogue with the individual canto, and in the larger context of The Cantos.